The New York Times ran two pieces this week that tell us a great deal about where our country is economically. On Sunday’s front page, “The Richest of the Rich, Proud of a New Gilded Age” told the story of how
many of the nation’s very wealthy chief executives, entrepreneurs and financiers echo an earlier era—the Gilded Age before World War I—when powerful enterprises, dominated by men who grew immensely rich, ushered in the industrialization of the United States. The new titans often see themselves as pillars of a similarly prosperous and expansive age, one in which their successes and their philanthropy have made government less important than it once was.
The story noted:
Only twice before over the last century has 5 percent of the national income gone to families in the upper one-one-hundredth of a percent of the income distribution—currently, the almost 15,000 families with incomes of $9.5 million or more a year, according to an analysis of tax returns by the economists Emmanuel Saez at the University of California, Berkeley and Thomas Piketty at the Paris School of Economics. Such concentration at the very top occurred in 1915 and 1916, as the Gilded Age was ending, and again briefly in the late 1920s, before the stock market crash. Now it is back…
As if to prove the scientific law that for every action, there is an opposite reaction, the Monday front page headlined “A New Populism Spurs Democrats on the Economy.”
Democrats are talking more and more about the anemic growth in American wages and the negative effects of trade and a globalized economy on American jobs and communities. They deplore what they call a growing gap between the middle class, which is struggling to adjust to a changing job market, and the affluent elites who have prospered in the new economy.
It is indeed time for a new populism, a new progressive era. Charges of class warfare will certainly be raised, and when they are, let us point out that it is indeed—the class warfare of tax cuts and budget priorities that make the rich richer while decimating low-and middle-income families.